"Oh, I have the Cornishman's passion for his native soil; but I am not so rooted to it as to pine in exile. I shall be happy enough in the South, with my dear young wife; especially if I see the roses come back to your cheeks in that land of flowers.""Come in," he said; and a familiar figure in a grey merino gown and smart white cap with pink ribbons entered quietly and came to the sofa where Isola was lying.
"That letter which I never received—telling me of that visit to which you made no allusion in any of your later letters. It was about that time, I think, that you fell off as a correspondent—left off telling me all the little details of your life—which in your earlier letters seemed to shorten the distance between us."
"Every woman can't have your genial disposition, Belle," answered the doctor, admiringly. "Perpetual sunshine is the rarest thing in Nature."The Italian Testament which she had been reading when he approached dropped at her feet, and stooping to pick it up Father Rodwell saw that it was open at the fourth chapter of St. John, the story of the woman of Samaria, the sinner with whom Christ talked at the well. A leaf from Shelley's grave lay upon the book, as if to mark where Isola had been reading, and Father Rodwell's quick glance saw that the page was blotted with tears.
"Well, I will try to bend that stubborn will."
This conversation took place in the garden, where they breakfasted, under a square striped awning, an apology for a tent, set up on the lawn by the river. A badly cooked breakfast seemed less offensive in the garden, where the summer air, and the perfume of the roses eked out the meal. After breakfast Disney called his wife to the drawing-room, where he had brought his spoil from the East, and laid his offerings, as it were, at the feet of his idol.
Oh, if they could see her now, those old friends of her unclouded childhood, the mother and father who had loved and trusted her, who had never spoken of evil things in her hearing, had never thought that sin could come near her! And she had fallen like the lowest of womankind. She had forfeited her place among the virtuous and happy for ever. She, Martin Disney's wife! That good man, that brave soldier who had fought for Queen and country—it was his wife who stood there in her shame, haggard and dishevelled!"You are so impatient," she said, plucking a handful of roses, and scattering the petals at her feet. "A year is so short a time.""We shall have enough for bread and cheese," he said. "I am better off than a good many younger sons; for a certain old grandfather of mine provided for the younger branches. It is quite possible that Lostwithiel may never marry—indeed, he seems to me very decided against matrimony, and in that case those who come after us must inherit title and estate in days to come."
"A riverderci," said the priest, grasping his hand. "I felicitate you upon this day's union; a happy one, or I am no judge of men and women.""Ah, colonel, that's what we all want to know," replied old Manley, the village carpenter, a bent and venerable figure, long past work. "I'm over eighty, but I never remember that gate being locked as long as I have lived at Trelasco, and that's all my life, colonel. There's always been a right of way through that wood."
No word was spoken during the long drive from Paddington; no word when the neat little brougham drew up in[Pg 190] front of a lofty flight of steps leading up to a Heidelberg doorway, set in the midst of a florid red-brick house, somewhat narrow in proportion to its height, and with over much ornament in the way of terra cotta panelling, bay and oriel, balcony and pediment.CHAPTER XXIX.
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"Firelight is very becoming. No doubt I looked better than in the daytime."Oh, those passionate, never-to-be-forgotten moments, when she had stood with him at the top of the companion, looking out upon those livid waters; fondly believing that each moment was to be their last; that the gates of death were opening yonder—a watery way, a gulf to which they must go down, in a moment, in a little moment, in a flash, in a breath, at the next, or the next, or the next mad plunge of that hurrying bark. Yes, death was there, in front of them—inevitable, imminent, immediate—and life and sin, shame, remorse, were done with, along with the years that lay behind them, a page blotted and blurred with one passionate madness, which had changed the colour of a woman's life. She knew not how she bore up against the force of that tempest; clinging to him with her bare, wet arms; held up by him; crouching against the woodwork, which shook and rattled with every blow of the battering-rams. She only knew that his arms were round her, that she was safe with him, even when the leaping surf rose high above her head, wrapping her round like a mantle, blinding, drowning her in a momentary extinction. She only knew that his lips were close to her ear, and that in a momentary lull of those[Pg 309] awful voices he murmured, "We are going to die, Isola! The boat cannot live through such a storm! We shall go down to death together!" And her lips turned to him with a joyful cry, "Thank God!" Then again, in a minute's interval, he pleaded, "Forgive me, love; my stolen love, forgive me before we did!" And again, "Was it a crime, Isola?" "If it was, I forgive you!" she whispered, clinging to him as the blast struck them.
She fell asleep that night wondering if she would ever see him again—if the Vendetta would have vanished from the harbour to-morrow at noontide, like a boat that had only lived in her dreams; or whether the yacht would still be anchored there in the haven under the hill. And, if so, whether Captain Hulbert would call at the Angler's Nest, and tell them about Lostwithiel's South American adventures, and how he came to be skipper of his brother's yacht.详情
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